NIGRUM – Elevenfold Tail (2022)REVIEW

Resilient in the face of repeated collapse-and-rebuild of environs the serpent’s adaptation now constitutes a frenzied leap into hypnotic motion, swaying before each calculated strike in artfully decisive killing blows. A dance of poisonous maw-spattered filth against a scale-draped and rugged animalistic austerity Malmö, Sweden-based black metal quartet Nigrum‘s debut full-length arrives seasoned in its actions yet abrupt in its mayhem, a reared-up showing of teeth meant to first terrify and then slowly debilitate. ‘Elevenfold Tail‘ is a frantic, rogue black metal conquest that is magisterial and refined despite its bestially spawned grout, an occult nightmare sequence in formation which yet reads as triumphal thanks to their unbroken channeling of sempiternal darkness.

Borne south of Mexico City in Cuernavaca circa 2015 Nigrum would initially form between J. (Shadowgrave) and members from mystic occult black metal acts Haborym and Inferna. We could consider the earliest work from the band on their first mLP (‘Mors Nox Regina‘, 2016) a condensation of the influences found on Shadowgrave‘s virtually unnoticed ‘Voiceless Call‘ mLP which’d otherwise presented 10+ minute songs in a menacing, epic fashion worth calling back to for precedence and trivia. In the interim J. joined Infesticide for a short while, tasking Isaías from that band with the guitars on the faster, shorter and deadlier ‘Death’s Prayers‘ (2018) mLP alongside members of Blaspheme Rites and Fumes (Mex). This’d been more of a thrashing black/heavy metal attack and an intense progression of the band down to a simple yet neck-wrenching intensity yet it wouldn’t last long. While the play-by-play of the line-up shifts the band had faced early on aren’t so profound it does begin to build a sense of adaptability and conglomeration of working relationships and a style of black metal developed through adversity, a progression which reads less obsessively run-on with its threads of guitar ideas and increasingly demonstrative with each release. A move to southern Sweden (Malmö) would necessitate another near complete line-up shift and the volatile, hexed and noisome ‘Cremer Igne‘ (2020) demo suggested Nigrum would continue to thrash beneath a curtain of occult black metal dread but with J.‘s guitar work now bringing its now well-developed signature to their work.

Elevenfold Tail‘ is the direct product of all that came before it, an ambitious and heavily stylized black metal record which speaks to long developed characterization which’d come to a head in the demo sessions that’d released in 2020 but, sure, with entirely refined results which cut some of the noxious noise of that tape. Nigrum created this record with the intention of making it count, playing it live and doing it all with maniac personality which you can’t miss when firing it up. It counts for something that this record accumulates lessons learned since 2015 in a time where full-fledged bands appear with a loose idea and a full-length (or three) in under a year nowadays, they’d fought for this one and it doesn’t make a fly by night statement; At face value there are elements of this record which death metal fans should warm up to quickly, primarily the classic thrash influenced morbidity of Vampire and the more thoughtful side of Hacavitz beyond 2007 or so but all of these are satellites for the heavy Swedish black metal affect which features on this record, speaking to a love of Nifelheim, Watain and many more current references unnecessary to make once you’re knee deep in the pool of bloody death worship they’ve racked up on this ~45 minute debut.

Nigrum are at thier best within their most ranting and raving pieces and these make up the bulk of the full listen as seven of the eleven songs included are 5-6 minute songs in a style elevated beyond that of what’d been found on ‘Cremer Igne‘ with the drummer creating an immense and ominous space on opener “Haunting Fields” which soon turns towards a more rocking, almost speed metallic drive up front as we find the piece’s guitar work written for three guitars which create rhythmic dimension deep in the distance, more direct framing in stereo for chorus or fluid directional changes, and trailing off in ranting “dueling” excess in each direction during most verses. It isn’t the peak of this bestial yet intelligent attack found across ‘Elevenfold Tail‘ but as the lead guitars build up to the hook at ~3:45 minutes it should be clear we don’t have just another sub-genre entry in hand. Needless to say that opening piece already had me cranking the volume and admiring the stark and violent feeling the layers of guitar work had created up front.

“Ea Quae Sanguinem Bibit” is the first of two pieces from ‘Cremer Igne‘ which have been largely reworked beyond their core set of guitar progressions, showcasing the amount of work Nigrum have done in polishing up their ideas and sound up to a higher standard of fidelity and expression. The major improvement here is the thread of lead guitars which rides through the song and the effect on the full listen is the conversation making one of many shifts for the sake of variety while the momentum of the album is sustained. The “pocket” where the band thrives begins to form, so to speak. From there we get the sense that this is a heavy metal band and not a tourist crew as “Per Sephulcra Regionum” stomps in and another re-worked demo piece “Murderer, Dweller” round out the careening, high energy ranting of Side A. These songs don’t all have mind-melting hooks which stick in mind for days but I’d immediately appreciated the textural scourge and urgent guitar voicing which’d not only sustained the momentum of their scrambling mad sound but remained tuneful in every case.

“Eleven Feathered Tempest” is the most key song on the record for my taste and a good indication of how the tone of the album develops on its second half, and where I’d felt Nigrum reach for something a bit more their own. From a cracking push into its first few minutes the rhythms begin to saunter and ease in short bursts eventually hitting the ~3:05 mark and stumbling up the pace, coming to a near complete stop and spends the second half of the song developing the lead into its central focus. A classic moment in some respects but also an unexpected turn which’d stood out being the quicker, catchier leads on earlier songs. It helps that the momentum holds up through “Serpent’s Tribe” wherein ‘Elevenfold Tail‘ continues to cross into atypical, irreverent rhythms to create a surreal push through. While my picking through these moments might not sound that wild the cumulative effect of coursing through the full listen is one of intensifying chaos and spectacle while doesn’t lose its musical value. Most songs hold up on their own if you’re prone to pick and choose but this is the sort of record that shines best as a complete listen, though “Apparition” sits in limbo as the second closing piece, an encore which is just as good as any other piece on the album.

Nigrum always had a solid idea of how their hypnotic, thrashing black metal ideal might sound and the skill to pull it off but it is probably for the best that trial and tribulation preceded their debut full-length, providing enough time to find the exact right path to carve over the course of several years before they were able to walk along a work well girded by their own durable pavement. That is to say that ‘Elevenfold Tail‘ stands out for its surety of self, a form of engaging and guitar driven black metal music built from experience and not fast-and-loose trend. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Elevenfold Tail
LABEL(S):Into Endless Chaos
RELEASE DATE:December 16th, 2022

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